Theres method in the music for Brown-Forman

There's method in the music for Brown-Forman

At the official ground-breaking ceremony for Brown-Forman's Slane Castle Irish whiskey distillery this week, the talk among a few of the guests was about why the company - which outlined heritage as an important factor when it comes to targeting new consumers - hadn't chosen to buy a moth-balled distillery with a ready-made history.

Instead, we found ourselves in the stables at Slane Castle, about 30 miles north of Dublin. The name Slane may be familiar to live music fans - there has been an open-air concert on the grounds most years since 1981. Artist that have played in the castles grounds have included Queen, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and U2. 

Granted, that's a story of sorts. But, is it as valid a story as the kind provided by an old distillery?

Then, Slane Castle estate's owner Henry Conyngham said this: "This has been a long-term dream of mine... it goes back to Thin Lizzy in 1981 and Phil Lynott singing Whiskey in the Jar. Then for many years... I used to play the 'national anthem' on a Saturday night. Except it was the alternative national anthem - Whiskey in the Jar...

"This is a perfect fit - whiskey and rock and roll," he added. "At the end of my days, if I can gaze out of a bedroom window with a large glass of Slane, looking down at a rock and roll band, I'll be a very happy man." 

It all began to make more sense. Jack Daniel's is the biggest American whiskey brand in the world and some of its success is down to its long-running association with music. From campaigns such as Jack on Tour, Jack Rocks, JD Future Legends and In Search of Sound and Culture, the brand is famous for its music cues.

Perhaps, then, we can look forward to a similar association for Slane. Indeed, Brown-Forman's chief brands & strategy officer Lawson Whiting told just-drinks that music was part of what attracted the company to Slane Castle.

"We looked at a number of moth-balled distilleries," he said. "We looked at a whole bunch of opportunities and different ways to get in, but this place and this family have so many stories. Taking these stables is about the same as taking moth-balled distillery and fitting it out.

"The Slane name travels. Even in the US, you can find it - it certainly makes for some fun stories. Jack Daniel's obviously has that tight association with music, too. It's just one more similarity between the brands that we think we can leverage."

Whiting also said that Henry's son, Alex Conyngham, would play a part in promoting the whiskey around the world.

"...the feeling around music is important to the brand," he continued. "I hope Slane keeps this concert venue going for another generation."

It'll certainly add to the story-telling element to have a Conyngham involved in seeding the brand. Perhaps a brand doesn't have to have history to have heritage? And with Jack Daniel's ready-made distribution network, it should be unstoppable. 

It looks like there's plenty of whiskey in the jar for Brown-Forman.